Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lobbying battle over same-sex marriage heats up in the House

By Meredith Colias

An Illinois House committee advanced a same-sex marriage proposal late this evening, but its sponsor said he would not call the bill for a floor vote this week.

The House Executive Committee approved Senate Bill 10 on a 6-5 vote.

Chicago Democratic Rep. Greg Harris, the bill’s sponsor, said he was upbeat about its chances for passage, even though the bill may face a tougher challenge than it did in the Senate. “I think it will look very good on the full floor,” he said. Bernard Cherkasov, chief executive officer of Equality Illinois, said he was optimistic and he thinks growing public opinion for same-sex marriage statewide would play an important role in pushing the final vote. "Every day that goes by, there's more and more support for this issue,” he said. “If they vote against the freedom to marry, they are going to be on the wrong side of history." Public opinion for support on same-sex marriage has been growing steadily in the state. A poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute between taken between January 27 and February 8 showed 45.5 percent of Illinoisans favored legalizing same-sex marriage, up from 33.6 three years prior.

Opponents testifying, however, took a notably sharper tone than they did during Senate debates, citing religious objections and the possible detrimental effects on children with same-sex parents. Ralph Rivera of the Illinois Family Institute said before the hearing that members of both parties opposed the bill, and he was confident the measure did not have enough support to reach that point. “I don't see the votes. ... The numbers aren't there for them,” he said.

No Republican committee members voted in favor of the bill. East St. Louis Democratic Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson Sr. voted against it, and Rep. Luis Arroyo, a Chicago Democrat, said he may not vote in favor of the proposal when Harris calls it in the House because of his religious objections and feedback from his district. The measure needs a minimum of 60 votes to pass the House. Senate Bill 10 passed the Senate on Valentine’s Day, 34-21, but with only one Republican vote. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has said he would sign the measure into law if it passes the General Assembly.

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